2017 Ontario provincial results

Better late than never!

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First off, apologies that this is late, but I’m back from travel now.

The 2017 SchoolReach Ontario provincial championships were held last week in Scarborough. 39 teams competed for ten playoff spots, and those teams then played their Monday rounds to determine the provincial champion and the three Nationals qualifiers.

The University of Toronto Schools won the tournament, with Lisgar CI and Martingrove CI claiming second and third. My results with R-values have been uploaded. Congratulations to both the winners and all the participating teams.

I’ll start with the pools, which can be gleaned from the results graphic Reach provided. There was better balance than some years, with the two extremes of pool B averaging 293.9 PPG and pool E averaging 261.5 PPG. Pool B’s high numbers weren’t just from Lisgar’s massive haul of points; the rest of the pool averaged 259.8 PPG and Lisgar had the toughest strength-of-schedule of any of the five pool winners. Pool E lacked any of my pre-tournament “tier 1” teams, though UCC was, in retrospect, worthy of assuming the “tier 1” role for that pool. Pool E also had a weaker midfield than the other pools. That being said, the variations of strength-of-schedule were not outlandish, and getting 2 playoff teams from each pool is usually the ideal scenario.

There were a few impressive “just-misses”. Pool B had the 12th, 13th, and 14th ranked teams (Oakville Trafalgar HS, Banting SS, and Neil McNeil HS), all of whom had R-values in the range of playoff teams. St. Joseph’s (of the Windsor variety) came from completely off my radar to one spot short of the playoffs.

The ten playoff teams were not too surprising. In fact, they all were listed on my top 15 preview, and all but one were in my top 10 (I went with Centennial CVI instead of Assumption CSS, which is how the head-to-head match, but not the final ranking, ended up). From final rank upward:

  • Merivale (10th). Considering the struggles this teams has had just to exist this year, a playoff appearance is a good finish.
  • RSGC (9th). Their “legit” team came this time, but their performance was surprising. Considering how well they did last year at UTS and also in History Bowl, this finish is a headscratcher. The good news for them is that the team returns next year, so they should improve.
  • Westmount (8th). Their prelim upset over UCC gave them a top seed, but R-value predicted a first-round loss to Assumption. Still, a good showing from the school and they have a solid intermediate group that will join the main team in the future.
  • PACE (7th). They survived Pool B with the R-value to show for it. In fact, their first-round match with London Central only had a 0.5% difference between the two – essentially a coin-flip.
  • Assumption (6th). Their prelim win over UTS was a shock, but they racked up the points throughout the day to justify their second-round appearance. They obviously improved since regionals; they lost to OTHS in the Burlington-Oakville title showdown in March.
  • London Central (5th). Amazingly, 5th would be considered an off-year for Central. Their R-value of 134% was 4th overall, but closer to the bubble teams than the top group.
  • UCC (4th). UCC lost four playoff games and finished 4th, thanks to the “highest-scoring loser” rule. This also happened to Massey in 2005 and St. Brother Andre in 2014. Nevertheless, they pulled off the highest losing score against UTS in the first round and Lisgar in the second; that’s what makes their feat more impressive.
  • Martingrove (3rd). Martingrove benefited from the easiest strength of schedule, but they knew they needed to pile on the points to get a strong seed. Unfortunately, UTS was just too strong in the semifinal, but they recovered to pick up third place and a Nationals spot. They will go deep in the Nationals playoffs as well.
  • Lisgar (2nd). Their raw R-value of 181% is the highest on record for a provincial tournament, and unlike other high R-values in history, they didn’t have a strength of schedule greater than 1. Lisgar just raked in points, including a 700 point game. Their 3730 prelim points are the most ever in the 7-game format, and their 533 PPG are behind only the 2001 and 2002 UTS teams, who had higher-scoring sets in their years. They cruised through the playoffs until they met only other team within striking distance of them. Once again, Lisgar has qualified for Nationals without winning a provincial title.
  • UTS (1st). That absence last year was a fluke. UTS is back and ready for a national title run. Their prelim R-value of 162% is also among the top 5 ever at a provincial tournament. UTS does need a clean run in the Nationals prelims, though, lest they take a strange loss (like they did against Assumption) and end up with a tough playoff road (each of last year’s top 4 as their four opponents).

And that’s how Ontario went. Midfield was a bit weak this year, but the top group are dominant. It would not surprise me to see Ontario 1-2-3 at Nationals this year.

But Nationals is another story. I’ll be back with a preview of the teams in time for next week’s final tournament.

2017 Ontario Provincials preview

Boosting the Scarborough economy since 2002!

It’s a Mother’s Day tradition: 40 teams from across Ontario assemble in Scarborough for the largest gathering of Reach players of the year. Some are there for the first time; others attended back in the Kingston or London days. Everyone is there for one purpose: to determine the 3 Ontario representatives at Nationals.

The tournament format has been roughly the same since 2005. Five pools of eight teams play a round-robin on Sunday. The pool winners take the first five seeds in the playoffs, while the next top five teams fill out the remainder for ten playoff teams in total. Teams are sorted first by wins, then by points earned. In the playoffs, there are five first-round games; the winners proceed and the highest-scoring loser is reprieved and faces the highest remaining seed in round 2. Six teams play in round 2, with three winners and another highest-scoring loser (although twice a single team has been the highest-scoring loser both times). The final four then have semifinals and finals to determine the top three teams.

Last year’s provincials (database entry here) was marred by unbalanced pools. It’s no secret that all this tracking of results and development of statistical rankings is a consequence of that bad tournament, and to that end, I have submitted projections for the top teams at this year’s tournament. I have no expectation that they will be followed exactly, but I set it up for flexibility because there are more considerations than just making a snake draft for pools (not having teams from the same region together; minimizing matchups from last year, accounting for drops, etc).

Here are my recommendations for the top three “tiers” of teams (15 teams in total). Within each tier, teams are listed alphabetically, not by my judgment of precise rank. Ideally, each pool would have one team from each tier, then sort the remaining teams for the geographic diversity.

Tier 1 (should win pool)

Lisgar CI

  • 2016 provincials result: 3rd
  • Best provincial result (on file): 2nd (2015)

Lisgar is the strongest team for which we have statistical evidence, thanks to an R-value of 216% at Regionals. They’ve been prepping through quizbowl events in Ontario and New York and writing the Lisgar independent tournament. The entire team that finished third at the 2016 Nationals will return for their senior year. They did have a reality check with only a 4th place finish at the single-subject History Bowl last month, though.

London Central SS

  • 2016 provincials result: 4th
  • Best provincial result (on file): 1st (2007, 2009, 2014)

I have no statistical information on Central this year. Unfortunately, I can only place them here based on their consistent track record of finishing highly at provincials.

Martingrove CI

  • 2016 provincials result: 1st
  • Best provincial result (on file): 1st (2013, 2015-16)

Martingrove has been in the Ontario final for four straight years. What UTS was for this tournament in the 2000s, MCI has assumed for the 2010s. Their regional R-value of 190% is also very high, and they will definitely be a deep playoff threat.

Royal St. George’s College

  • 2016 provincials result: 26th
  • Best provincial result (on file): 14th (2015)

RSGC is the biggest leap of faith for me; I was burned last year when an unexpected team composition showed up to provincials. This year, the group of grade 11 students should be present, the group who last year finished third at UTS’ independent tournament behind UTS and KVHS and ahead of Nationals qualifiers UCC and Central. I saw this team back as grade 9 players at the first History Bowl, and predicted “the next Colonel By” (a single-year cohort that gels together for eventual dominance). I think they will do well in the round-robin, but could stumble from first-year jitters in the playoffs. It’s all a warm-up for 2018, though.

University of Toronto Schools

  • 2016 provincials result: DNQ
  • Best provincial result (on file): 1st (2001-04, 2008, 2012)

UTS is coming hot off of History Bowl success, and their performance at Lisgar’s independent tournament showed they aren’t limited to one subject. This year, there were no surprises for them in the Toronto region, and they’re back at provincials to restart their attendance streak. A few players are still in grade 11, so expect fireworks to continue next year as well.

Tier 2 (should make playoffs)

The Academy for Gifted Children (PACE)

  • 2016 provincials result: DNQ
  • Best provincial result (on file): 2nd (2013)

PACE is a strange case: they don’t always qualify/attend, but when they do, they usually make playoffs. This could be a consequence of competing in the somewhat-strong York/Richmond Hill region. With regional winner Bayview not likely to attend, they will be the standard-bearer for the north Toronto suburbs.

Centennial CVI

  • 2016 provincials result: 9th
  • Best provincial result (on file): 1st (2011)

Centennial usually makes the playoffs, but they do it with relatively weak R-values. This can be a sign that they pull out wins by punching above their weight, so stronger teams should watch out for team. CCVI also has a great attendance streak stretching back to 2005.

Merivale HS

  • 2016 provincials result: 8th
  • Best provincial result (on file): 1st (2000)

Like PACE, Merivale is stuck in a tough region and just getting to provincials is usually a sign that they will make the playoffs. Their regional R-value of 148% should be enough background for a playoff appearance. Once in, they have been known for upsets…

Upper Canada College

  • 2016 provincials result: 2nd
  • Best provincial result (on file): 2nd (2016)

UCC is finally getting through the Toronto region regularly to reach provincials, with a second-round appearance in 2015 and a great run out of the tough pool to second place last year. They probably aren’t quite tier 1, but they should be a credible threat to knock off a top seed in the first round.

Westmount SS

  • 2016 provincials result: DNQ
  • Best provincial result (on file): 7th (2004)

Westmount has been on the wrong side of the playoff bubble a few times, and their regional R-value of 130% may be pushing it to make the top 10 this year. However, they have a good quizbowl season behind them, and the slow shift to that kind of content in Reach questions could benefit them over other teams that still depend on reading old packs for practice material.

Tier 3 (could make playoffs)

Assumption CSS

  • 2016 provincials result: 29th
  • Best provincial result (on file): 2nd (2010)

Assumption’s record at provincials is all over the map. They could go to Nationals one year and finish bottom half at provincials the next. It’s impossible to predict for this team, but good coaching makes them a serious-effort team, and writing a (middle school level) tournament is a good way to practice. I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt.

Michael Power – St. Joseph HS

  • 2016 provincials result: DNQ
  • Best provincial result (on file): 15th (2013)

MPSJ’s regional R-value of 135% is higher than Tier 2 team Westmount, but I have them ranked lower for two reasons. 1: historically, they finish in the teens and haven’t made playoffs; and 2: the R-value benefited from finishing ahead of a stronger team (Bishop Allen). They could get their best-ever result this year, though.

Neil McNeil HS

  • 2016 provincials result: DNQ
  • Best provincial result (on file): no appearance

Woburn’s run at provincials has apparently ended, with Neil McNeil taking the Scarborough region that has usually been dominated by Woburn and Agincourt (who both regularly finish in the top half). I have no record of Neil McNeil at provincials in the modern era – in fact, I only know of their 1969 title!

The Oakville winner (possibly White Oaks SS or Oakville-Trafalgar HS)

  • 2016 provincials result: 15th (WOSS) or 13th (OTHS)
  • Best provincial result (on file): 11th (WOSS; 2015) or 4th (OTHS; 2003-04)

I don’t know who won Oakville, but White Oaks has decent results this year. I figure it will be either them or a team that performed better than them at regionals, maybe OTHS. Both teams have been in the teens in recent provincials.

Edited to add: as seen in the comments, OTHS has qualified for provincials.

Waterloo CI

  • 2016 provincials result: 5th
  • Best provincial result (on file): 5th (2016)

I’m actually only assuming Waterloo CI won their region (if they didn’t, I gave a note to elevate Peel winner Heart Lake SS). Waterloo had a good run the last few years, but graduations are taking their toll and they have lost ground to some other teams, as seen at McMaster’s quizbowl tournament. They should still be a top half team, though, especially with a background of quizbowl practice.

And there are my top 15. I have assumed no attendance for Bayview, CHAT, and appeals by other Scarborough/York/Ottawa/Toronto teams. There are still some potential surprises, though, thanks to my complete lack of knowledge on some teams and regions. Is first-time provincial attendee Monarch Park, runner-up to RSGC, a threat? How about Brampton or Pickering winners? All those Niagara peninsula reps? Can a Northern Ontario team make playoffs for the first time since Manitoulin in 2003? Does Kingston even exist? Will there still be traffic light trivia at the gala dinner? How many slices of pizza will players get at lunch? All these important questions and more will be answered next week at the 2017 Ontario SchoolReach provincial championship!

Views from IHBB Nationals

This tournament is history!

The Canadian History Bee and Bowl happened today at Lisgar CI. I don’t participate in IHBB events any longer, but I decided to drop by for some observations.

This event was probably the only real chance to preview Ontario teams before Ontario Reach provincials. It’s not the best comparison because the tournament is single-subject and uses a different question style, but there is enough to give qualitative impressions of teams.

In the senior division, UTS defeated Bayview SS in the final, and Royal St. George’s College beat Lisgar for third place. As far as I could tell, these were “A” teams, though UTS rotated through substitutes regularly. Bayview’s appearance in the final was quite a surprise after upsetting the #1 seeded RSGC in the semifinal.

RSGC earned that #1 seed, though. The competition was strong and they earned an important win over Lisgar in the round-robin. I was uncertain about the team going in, having no information available, but RSG proved themselves and should be a formidable opponent in the SchoolReach season. A drawback is that they are very dependent on a single player, so an off-game from that player can lead to upsets like the one seen today. Nevertheless, RSG deserves a good seed for Reach (I said that last year, but that’s another story…).

UTS thoroughly earned that championship, too. Their route to victory required beating Lisgar twice, who would have been entering the tournament as favourites. I am not sure if the UTS team prefers history and that gave them the edge, or whether they have improved in all subjects since Lisgar’s February tournament. I would consider UTS the #1 pre-provincials team.

Westmount was the other Ontario school in the senior field. They have a good knowledge base and they surprised me with some difficult answers they earned, but they are just a tier down from the top teams that participated today. I still think they would be on the bubble for Ontario Reach playoffs, like most past Hamilton representatives.

Finally, another impressive characteristic of the senior field was the performance of grade 11 players. If the teams were that good this year, imagine 2018!

Canadian History Bee & Bowl

For when players are stuck in the past.

Four regional tournaments are being played today for the Canadian division of the International History Bee & Bowl. Edmonton, Ottawa, Toronto, and Vancouver all have events today, with Montreal and Saint John scheduled later.

The IHBB is the international branch of History Bee & Bowl in the US. It was established by former Jeopardy! champion David Madden, and holds competitions in several countries. The Canadian regional sites lead to a national championship (held in Montreal for 2017), and many top participants qualify for a History Olympiad in the summer.

The team event is the History Bowl. Two teams face off to compete in a four-round game. Three of the rounds are variations on quizbowl’s tossups. The third round is a unique lightning round where each team selects a category they prefer, then get exclusive access to answer as many snapper-style questions (up to 10) that they can in one minute.

The individual event is the History Bee. Usually, 4-8 players compete on the same buzzer set, with multiple rooms occurring simultaneously to accommodate everyone. Everyone competes individually to answer from 30 multi-clue tossups worth one point each. If a player reaches 8 points, they step aside (“shootout” style) and get some bonus points based on how quickly they reached 8 points. The preliminary phase usually has several rounds, with players shuffling between rooms to vary the competition, and the players with the highest combined point totals proceed to playoff games.

Canadian History Bowl has hit off best in the GTA, bringing in the biggest fields and attracting teams that don’t even play SchoolReach or quizbowl. Other cities still struggle for attendance, but get by.

For today, Lisgar should win the senior division in Ottawa. They will probably also get the JV title, but few teams are competing for it. Toronto will be a clash between UTS, Royal St. George’s, and Westmount. I will respect player anonymity, but the Toronto Bee will likely preview two top contenders for the 2018 Reach for the Top national title.

Good luck to the participating teams!

Disclosure: I received money from IHBB for tournament directing services in 2015. I no longer participate in IHBB events.